A series of six works by modern artist V S Gaitonde, is among 45 artworks set to go under the hammer at Bonhams Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art sale on June 11 in London.

The six ink on paper drawings (estimated between 20,000-35,000 pounds each) were acquired directly from the artist by American abstract painter Morris Graves, who visited Gaitonde’s studio in 1963, auctioneers said in a statement.

Excited by the works, Graves sent an aerogram that same day to Dan and Mariam Johnson of the Willard Gallery in New York. "One of the finest painters I have ever seen," Graves wrote of Gaitonde.

"He is 100 per cent artist – a great and sincere…He is an abstract painter with something unspeakably beautiful and clean added. They are the most beautiful landscapes of the mind plus light…" he wrote.

Gaitonde, who produced perhaps six paintings a year, is known for his non-representational works. This series of drawings, up for auction is part of the same set as a collection in the National Gallery of Modern Art here and marks a critical turn in Gaitonde’s career, auctioneers said.

In 1961, Gaitonde abandoned figuration, adopting the use of rollers and ink and the use of a monochrome palette, exemplified in the series.

After finding a book on Zen Buddhism in a bookstore in 1959 in Mumbai, Gaitonde began to incorporate the philosophy, as well as the practice of calligraphy, into his work.

These influences come through in the works, where the roller and brush strokes act as record of a personal meditative process.

After Graves’ introduction, Gaitonde was exhibited solo at the Willard Gallery in New York, which represented Graves and Mark Tobey, who both also studied Zen.

Gaitonde has been compared to Rothko, whom he visited in the early 60s with Krishen Khanna, a fellow member of the Progressive Artist Group, whose work also appears in the sale, estimated at 15,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds.

Last year, Gaitonde was the subject of a solo retrospective at the Guggenheim in New York. Two oil paintings that Graves purchased along with the six drawings were sold at Bonhams New York in 2014 (Untitled 1961 for USD 1,068,000 and Untitled 1963 for USD 1.2 million).

Tahmina Ghaffar, newly appointed specialist for Modern and Contemporary South Asian Art at Bonhams said, "There is already great interest, not just in the Gaitonde series, but right across the full spectrum of modern and contemporary artists represented at this auction." 

"Bonhams has had two very successful Indian sales this year and we are looking forward to deepening our engagement with the Indian art scene with what is billed to be one of our most exciting South Asian auctions to date," Ghaffar said.

Works by masters such as S H Raza, Francis Newton Souza, Bhupen Khakhar, Jamini Roy, K G Subramanyan and Krishen Khanna apart from those by contemporary artists such as Nalini Malani and Bhupen Khakhar are also included in the auction.

Krishen Khanna’s Untitled, Female figure (estimated at 15,000 pounds to 20,000 pounds) painted in 1958, in the final years of his banking career provides a rare insight into the early stages of the artist.

M F Husain’s Untitled, Self Portrait (estimated at 40,000 pounds to 60,000 pounds) was conceived against the backdrop of a post partition landscape. The artwork, say auctioneers have never appeared in an auction before.

An oil on canvas piece by Husain Untitled, Horse (estimated 40,000 – 60,000 pounds) depicts one or possibly two rearing horses.

The Bonhams sale is scheduled for preview from June 7 to June 10.

Meanwhile, the upcoming sale feature prominent Pakistani artists Abdur Rahman Chughtai (estimated at 20,000 pounds to 30,000 pounds) Sadequain (estimated at 7,000 pounds to 9,000 pounds), and Rashid Rana (estimated at 30-50,000 pounds), who is currently showcasing his work at the 2015 Venice Biennale.